The Senate passed a budget resolution on Friday, allowing Democrats to move forward with President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan. But there’s no guarantee they have enough votes for the reconciliation bill to become law.
“That’s the whole ballgame,” Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute, told Yahoo Money. “At the end of the day, do you have 51 votes? It's not going to be easy, but it's not going to be impossible, either.”
Democrats need 51 votes for some part or Biden’s whole package to pass, meaning support from the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate, along with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote, is needed to get the legislation through. But it remains unclear whether the bill would get the backing from more centrist Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV).
The resolution now goes to the House, which already passed it, for a final vote after the Senate added new amendments. After that, 11 different committees receive reconciliation instructions and start putting together sections of the bill, taking into consideration some of the amendments adopted in the “vote-a-rama” session in the Senate.
One amendment came from a bipartisan group of senators including Manchin and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), preventing “upper-income households” from getting the $1,400 stimulus checks under Biden’s stimulus plan. While the amendment was adopted, it is only advisory.
“An amendment puts on the record what a majority of senators think right now about that issue,” Harkins said. “But that's all.”
But incorporating some of those amendments could help Democrats get the needed 51 votes to pass the stimulus package. Manchin supported the advancement of the budget resolution, but said he is “hopeful that we can have bipartisan support moving forward,” which the adoption of some of the amendments would provide.
“The President remains hopeful that we can have bipartisan support moving forward,” Manchin said in a statement on Tuesday. “I will only support proposals that will get us through and end the pain of this pandemic.”
‘The first major legislation... usually has a little bit easier time’
Biden’s $1.9 trillion legislation includes $1,400 stimulus payments on top of the $600 from the second round, the extension of key unemployment programs that are set to expire in the spring, aid to small businesses, $350 billion to state and local governments, an increase in tax credits for low- and middle-income families, and $160 billion for a national program on vaccination and testing. It also calls for increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
It is unclear whether all provisions could be passed through reconciliation, which must include items that affect overall spending or revenue of the federal government. While some provisions could easily qualify for the reconciliation process — like the $1,400 stimulus payments and the expansion and extension of unemployment benefits — others like the $15 minimum wage may not.
While Democrats need every single Democratic and Independent vote to pass the legislation, getting support from Republicans can also help them reach the 51-vote threshold.
“The first major legislation that any new president gets through usually has a little bit easier time,” Harkins said. “There is still this aura of positiveness around a newly elected president. The second piece of legislation becomes harder.”
Some Republican senators may support the legislation if some amendments are made, feeling pressure from the plan’s popularity, according to Harkins. More than two-thirds of Americans support Biden’s stimulus plan, a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 1,516 people found.
Getting some Republicans on board would also help the administration on future legislation — like an infrastructure bill — that needs 60 votes to pass legislation.
“That sets the pathway for all major legislation moving forward,” Harkins said. “I think that's what President Biden wishes to avoid — that we're in our camps at the very beginning, and that's it.”